The state of Ohio is permanently revoking the operating permits of two Youngstown companies in connection with the illegal dumping of drilling wastes into a storm sewer that drains to the Mahoning River.
The announcement came this afternoon from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The revocation orders were served late Wednesday to Hardrock Excavating and D&L Energy Group, both located at 2761 Salt Springs Road in Youngstown and both owned by Ben Lupo, who faces criminal and civil charges from the state.
D&L Energy is the company behind the injection well that triggered more than a dozen small earthquakes through late 2011 in the Youngstown area in disposing of drilling wastes.
Under the ODNR’s orders, D&L Energy must cease all injection well operations in the state of Ohio.
Permits for its six injection wells have been revoked by the state of Ohio. That includes operating injection wells in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and three under construction: two in Mahoning County and one in Trumbull County. The sixth well in Youngstown exists only on paper.
The state’s order does not affect the 9,200-foot-deep Youngstown injection well that is widely blamed for the earthquakes. That well may be switched to a new corporate owner, officials said.
Applications from the company for three new injection wells have been denied.
In addition, D&L Energy will immediately cease all temporary storage operations at the Salt Springs Road site.
ODNR also revoked the brine hauling permit of Hardrock Excavating. That had allowed the company to transport oil field wastes from drilling rigs to the Youngstown site.
The companies and Lupo were reviewing the state action and may issue a statement later today, said spokesman Vince Bevacqua.
The state’s criminal investigation against Lupo, also identified as the CEO of both firms, and the companies is continuing.
ODNR has officially asked the Ohio Attorney General to initiate civil proceedings against those responsible for the intentional dumping.
"ODNR treats all allegations of wrongdoing involving oil field waste very seriously and will continue to aggressively investigate each of these cases to ensure violators are held accountable," said ODNR Director James Zehringer in a statement.
Lupo was linked to the illegal discharge of more than 20,000 gallons of drilling wastes to the storm sewer off Salt Springs Road in Youngstown on Jan. 31.
He reportedly ordered company employees to dump the oil, brine and drilling muds, an action that was witnessed by state inspectors.
The state had learned of the planned dumping via an anonymous telephone call to ODNR.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency reported that Lupo admitted responsibility for the dumping.
At that time, he was identified as owner of Hardrock Excavating and a spokesman for D&L Energy had denied any corporate involvement in the dumping.
The EPA has been supervising the cleanup of the storm sewer, an unnamed tributary and the Mahoning River.
Said EPA Director Scott Nally, "We are working as fast as possible to complete this cleanup because a warming trend into the weekend could make the work more challenging as things thaw."
The Ohio EPA regulates any pollutants that enter state waters. Both state and federal laws prohibit the placement of industrial wastes where they can cause water pollution.
Under state law, violators face a misdemeanor penalty of up to one year in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Under federal law, a knowing discharge constitutes a felony with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and fine of $50,000 per day. A knowing violation occurs when an individual or corporation knowingly discharges pollutants into navigable waters.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.